Hot for Handyman

Apparently it isn’t just me.  Falling in love with your carpenter (electrician, handyman, whatever) is a thing. (Spoilers coming).

Kate Reddy, Allison Pearson’s protagonist in How Hard Can It Be? (sequel to I Don’t Know How She Does It – women of a certain age will enjoy both) has flashes of lust for her kind handyman, or as much of him as is visible sticking out from under whatever he is crawling around fixing. Grace, from Grace and Frankie (Netflix), the story of two older women whose husbands leave them – for each other – after 40 years of marriage, fell in love with her remodeling contractor years before, while still married. After I had begun writing my memoir of kitchen remodeling and falling in love with the Bulgarian while caring for my terminally ill husband, I read Wally Lamb’s I Know This Much Is True, where there is a brief but striking, and very moving (to me) portrayal of how the central character, Dominick, reacts to his Mother’s terminal diagnosis by deciding to remodel her kitchen, and a more in-depth portrayal of his life trying to manage care for his mentally ill twin brother.

Kate’s handyman knew long before Kate did that her husband was cheating on her. Grace actually consummates her love for the long-lost-and-found contractor, but he is caring for a wife with dementia. And the Mother in Lamb’s book puts a stop to the kitchen remodeling project after her son removes just the first panel of wainscotting, asking for something smaller – time and companionship – an ice cream sundae, instead.

The lives of these fictional characters resonate with me, because aspects of their imaginary experience reflect my real experience, and help me feel less alone.

I studied Jung in college, including the idea of “synchronicity:” that “meaningful coincidences” or simultaneous thinking occur between people who have no real connection to each other.  I got deeply into the idea of archetypes and the “collective unconscious.” Later in my life I experienced a kind of real-time “collective unconscious,” when performing improvisation – we called it the “group mind.”

I’ve written before, I think, about how I don’t believe in coincidences. I think people come in and out of each other’s lives for a reason, and that we encounter animals, things and events in our daily lives that signify more than just their objective descriptions. Those “events” may include the sudden impulse to turn on the TV or radio, or change the channel, only to find a song, or a program, or a line of dialogue that has special, surprisingly familiar meaning. Mike used to refer to the energy behind all this as “the gods,” and we would share with each other frequently what we thought otherwise unremarkable things were trying to tell us.

One thing the universe sure as hell is telling me is that “hot handyman” is an archetype, and there’s synchronicity going on about older women, cancer, grief, loss and resilience. It’s saying jump-start the stalled querying, Annie, and go for it. Collect rejections for your memoir proudly and keep going, because older women are having a significant moment. “The gods” (that loving, creative energy that Wayne Dyer talked about on those PBS specials) have hit the reset button on the the archetypes of the “widow” and the “crone” and freed older women to reinvent and redefine how they are perceived and what they can, and will, do. And what Grace and Frankie do in the two and a half or so seasons I’ve binge-watched so far, with lots more to go, is variously hilarious, shocking, and empowering.

I’m halfway through the first year of my 7th decade, and I never felt better. I’ve got a fantastic job and a great new haircut that makes me feel fab (and I don’t even care about how it reveals the bald spots – it’s so easy – just skwunch and go!) I haven’t been working out since I started the job, but I have a cool stand-up desk and make a point of taking the stairs a few times daily. I’m hoping to get back to the dumbbells next week.

Angelic Daughter is still having a very hard time processing the things I say about “carrying our sadness about Dad with us while moving forward to have happy lives.” Sad and happy, simultaneously? Hell, it’s hard enough for me to understand. But we’ve got things settled so she’ll be getting out more, meeting new friends, looked after by kind people at a place that is bright, beautiful, and welcoming. She’ll have lots to do to keep her busy, and, I think, happy, while I’m at work. Whew. Cue great night’s sleep and corresponding ten years off face, plus a few points shaved off the blood pressure.

Now where’s the handyman?

With hope, I remain, your

Ridiculouswoman

Image (I cropped it) by skeeze from Pixabay

Too Old and Too Expensive

The door closed. So where’s that open window?

“… at this time we are moving forward with other candidates that more closely fit our needs.”

This email came ten minutes after I finished screaming at reprimanding Angelic Daughter for WRITING ON MY NEWLY PAINTED WALL and then removing every privilege, excursion and cherished food I could think of from her foreseeable future, replacing them with cleaning bathrooms, vacuuming and REPAINTING SAID WALL.

Well, karma’s a bitch, ain’t it?

The bullshit factor just rubs it in, because this is what they say when their lawyers have instructed them never to tell you the truth, to wit,  “you’re too old and too expensive.”

This was the second time in as many months this has happened to me – the callback interview went really well: I really thought I had this one in the bag. And just as I was thinking it would be another week or so before I heard, WHAMMO, the buzzer sounds.

Thank you for playing, NEXT!

The clock has also run out on me with the two agents I pitched at the Midwestern Writer’s Agent Fest – one who requested the full manuscript of my book right there at the pitch, the other who said she’d look at my query.

Pocket vetos, both.

So on a day when I screwed up badly as a Mom and feel horrible about it, I was rejected from a job I thought I had for sure, my confidence in my writing has sunk to a new low.

I know the problem with the book – in a very crowded market, a memoir has to be about something greater than the mere experience of the writer – they want grand social themes – Hillbilly Elegy, or Educated – from “marginalized voices.”

I’m a straight, suburban white woman. About as non-marginalized as it gets.

Except for one thing:

My age.

If there is one universally marginalized group of people on this planet, it is older women.

So much for “yippee! I’m sixty and invisible!”

That has quickly become, “Oh shit, I’m sixty and unemployable.”

And unpublishable too,  apparently.

They see my book as a “me-moir.”  It has to have more universality or social impact than is readily apparent. It can’t just be both heartwrenching and funny.  It has to connect to some broader social theme.

Really? Well, how about this:

There are nearly 12 million widows in the US.

And (pulled directly from the Family Caregiver Alliance website):

  • Approximately 43.5 million caregivers have provided unpaid care to an adult or child in the last 12 months. [National Alliance for Caregiving and AARP. (2015). Caregiving in the U.S.]
  • Upwards of 75% of all caregivers are female, and may spend as much as 50% more time providing care than males. [Institute on Aging. (2016). Read How IOA Views Aging in America.]
  • Older caregivers are more likely to care for a spouse or partner. The average age of spousal caregivers is 62.3. [National Alliance for Caregiving and AARP. (2015). Caregiving in the U.S.]

And the American Cancer Society predicts:

1,762,450 new cancer cases and 606,880 cancer deaths in 2019.

I want to believe that my story could help caregivers feel less invisible, and less alone. Caregiving can be terrifying, exhausting, fulfilling and heartbreaking.

It can drive you crazy. It did me, and made me do ridiculous things, to avoid facing the certainty of my husband’s premature death at just 54.

I don’t feel crazy anymore, just defeated. If I couldn’t land this job, a job for which I simply cannot believe another candidate could have been better qualified, then I give up.

And today I feel like giving up on my writing, too.

It’s going to be 95 tomorrow, 98 on Friday, and no air conditioning. We’ve been through it before, but sitting immobile in a damp bathing suit, periodically hosing oneself down, isn’t conducive to sparkling query letter writing.

And what if, even with my spot-on experience, I was rejected from the job because I blew the interview? How could that be? The interviewer said I was first on her list to contact, and started the interview by just asking me if I had questions. Kept me there meeting volunteers for half an hour longer than I planned.

Did I ask too  many questions? Give too much information? Was it because I explained my need for a little time to find a caregiver for Angelic Daughter?

If it was that, then, I wouldn’t want to work for you anyway.  Feh.

After my previous rejection, my sweet brother sent me this:

“Everytime I thought I was being REJECTED from something good, I was actually being REDIRECTED to something better.” – Steve Maraboli

I’ll hang on to that, and try to believe it, while I clean the bathroom and vacuum the floors.

But Angelic Daughter is going to repaint that wall.

Trying to find my redirection, I remain,

Your disappointed, self-doubting, wanting to find a way to keep trying,

Ridiculouswoman